Are these just buzzwords attempting to cover up the nature of a passing fad in internet technology, or is cloud hosting really something you should be looking deeper in to? It’s a fair question, considering all of the hype and sales talk surrounding “the cloud” at the moment, and this guide will hopefully answer some of the questions you have about it.
Cloud Hosting Overview
When your website or other project is hosted in a cloud environment, that basically means that your website’s data is being pulled from multiple servers instead of just one that you would traditionally be hosted on. Because of this, a cloud hosting service can be thought of as more of a utility – such as gas or electricity – as opposed to a product that is sold as is. For example: if you use less electricity than your neighbor does, with his pool heater running around the clock or what have you, then you would expect to pay less for electricity than he does. With cloud hosting, that is actually what happens.
It goes further than that though, as that is just a basic comparison to make, because a cloud hosting package usually gives you access to “burst” resources that can be accessed on an on-demand basis. This means that if your website, application, or whatever else you’re doing becomes very popular all of a sudden then you will be able to keep up with demand by automatically pulling resources such as memory or CPU from other servers within the cloud to make sure your project stays online and available for people to use.
The advantages and reasons for using cloud computing are many and varied, and some of the major ones will be discussed further in-depth below.
You have surely noticed at some point in your online travels that certain websites load much slower than others. This can be caused by many things such as faulty or overloaded hardware, but one of the most common reasons is as simple and seemingly unavoidable as the physical location of the server compared to your own physical location. Basically, a typical website hosted in Germany will load slower for a visitor coming from the USA (and vice versa). This happens because the data that makes up a website must be routed through various servers in various locations as it makes its way to you, similar to how an airplane may stop over at a few airports before finally arriving at the destination.
But what if you could give all of your visitors and potential future customers a “direct flight” to your website with no stopovers or delays? For some, the difference in loading time and website performance will be almost unnoticeable, but others will surely appreciate the effort you went to in order to accommodate them. Anyone in business will tell you that this kind of goodwill is very valuable, particularly in highly competitive business environments in which the customers have many choices.
Security and Reliability
As the technology to do good things progresses, so does the technology to do bad things. Operating a website can be a daunting task, particularly if you are handling sensitive information, because there are thousands of people out there looking to break in and steal information or just cause havoc. Whether these thugs are looking to steal payment information for monetary gain, or just knock your website offline for fun, you need to be ready for it.
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks have become a very popular tool recently, used by bored kids and angry competitors alike. This type of attack generally uses computers that have been infected somehow in order to inundate a server with a massive amount of fake traffic. Similar to how a massive surge in car traffic is enough to shut down major roads, a DDoS attack is more than enough to take down many websites.
If you are using cloud hosting though, these attacks are usually far less successful. Especially if you’re using someone reputable. For a start, you have the advantage of simply having access to more resources, but you also generally have better security in place in a cloud environment. This will give your website the best chance to stay online in the event of an attack, and also just makes it more reliable during everyday use because there is no single point of failure.
Most websites start small, and will have their ups and downs during the months and years ahead. YouTube didn’t begin its life as a billion dollar operation, so there is always a need to start small and have room to move as you get established. Being able to grow at certain times, and cut back at other times, should give you more confidence that you’re not going to get stuck either paying too much for what you don’t need or having to go through the hassle of migrating servers every six months as you grow.
This scalability is not just good for new websites, as it can also be a benefit to those with seasonal needs. For example: if your business is only really popular during the summer for whatever reason, then you will pay less during the other months.
Cloud hosting is fairly cheap at the moment compared to other services, so perhaps the best way of assessing whether it is right for you is simply to try it for yourself for a few months.